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BASEBALL / GARY KLEIN : Young Solid at Bat Despite His Shakiness at Third Base

June 28, 1992|GARY KLEIN

Dmitri Young is in only his second season of professional baseball, but he already appears to have mastered one of the necessary skills for reaching the major leagues.

Young, the St. Louis Cardinals' first pick in the 1991 amateur draft, has committed 23 errors in 71 games playing third base for Springfield (Ill.) in the Class-A Midwest League. That kind of struggle would mentally destroy many players and affect every phase of their performance.

Not Young, whose foibles afield have not affected his work at the plate.

The former Rio Mesa High standout is batting .300 with three home runs and 29 runs batted in. He has 21 doubles, five triples and six stolen bases. Young had one hit in five at-bats during the recent Midwest League all-star game in Peoria, Ill.

"If I had been worrying about my fielding problems, my batting average would have been .200," said Young, 6-foot-2, 225 pounds. "Most of my errors were at the beginning of the season. I wasn't going for the ball, I was letting it play me.

"I've been working every day with the coaches, taking ground balls. They've pointed out a thing or two that has helped. I'm reacting better."

Young, who will not be 19 until October, batted .256 with two homers, 22 RBIs and 10 doubles in 37 games last season for Johnson City (Tenn.), the Cardinals' affiliate in the Appalachian Rookie League. He participated in the Instructional League and spent part of the off-season in the weight room.

Several of his triples this season have been near-miss homers.

"A couple of them hit the top of the wall," he said. "I'm starting to see the ball a lot better and I'm getting smarter on the basepaths. My all-around game is betting better."

Young said he still has moments of difficulty with his glove, but he does not expect them to impede his progress to the majors.

"I'm trying to get more consistent at everything," he said. "When I'm playing, I'm just out here to have a good time and get better at the game."

Power surge: Tim Laker has been on a power trip since he broke spring training and arrived in Harrisburg, Pa., home of the Montreal Expos' affiliate in the double-A Eastern League.

Laker, a catcher who played at Simi Valley High and Oxnard College, is batting .221 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 70 games. Laker (6-3, 195) never hit more than eight homers during his first four professional seasons.

Last year, he batted .231 with five homers and 33 RBIs in 100 games for West Palm Beach in the Class-A Florida State League, where teams play in the cavernous spring training stadiums of major league teams.

"In the Florida State League, there's only a few parks where you can hit the ball out consistently and West Palm Beach is not one of them," Laker said. "This is a league where you can put up some decent numbers."

Laker, 22, is hoping to finish the season with 15 to 20 homers, 70 to 80 RBIs and lift his average to about .250.

"Double A is really where most guys get weeded out," Laker said. "There have been a lot of guys who jump from double A to the big leagues.

"There are guys who played here last year that are playing in Montreal now."

Released: Infielder Mark MacArthur, formerly of The Master's College, has been released by the Minnesota Twins organization. MacArthur, who was signed by the Twins as a free agent this season, batted .210 with four RBIs in 25 games for Visalia of the Class-A California League.

It marked the second time MacArthur has been released. He was originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1990 and was cut loose after batting .160 in 59 games for Class-A Savannah of the South Atlantic League.

Getting his chance: Mike Teich, a 22-year-old right-hander, said he is content with the course his career has taken since he signed last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization out of Cal State Sacramento.

Teich, who also played at El Camino Real High and College of the Canyons, is 3-2 with a 3.26 earned-run average as a long and middle reliever for Augusta (Ga.), the Pirates' affiliate in the Class-A South Atlantic League.

Teich was used in the same capacity last season at Welland (Ontario, Canada) in the short-season New York-Penn League.

"I really don't mind that I'm not a starter or short reliever," Teich said. "I get to pitch a lot, sometimes it's in good situations and sometimes it's not. I don't care, as long as I get a chance to pitch."

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